By Matt Somerford
Skipper Alastair Cook knows his side must turn words into actions when they begin their World Cup winter in earnest against Sri Lanka tomorrow.
England will return to competitive action for the first time in almost 12 weeks when they begin the seven-match one-day international series at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
During the time away from the international spotlight, preparations have been cast for a winter that will focus solely on the 50-over game and the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Since arriving in Sri Lanka last week Cook’s side have begun fine-tuning their skills for the task of facing a Sri Lanka side that knocked them out of the last World Cup at this same venue three years ago.
And while the wet weather that has greeted them has set back some of their plans – Sunday’s second warm-up game was washed out – Cook believes important steps forward have already been taken during practice sessions.
He knows, however, that all of the good work done so far will count for little if England do not put in a performance to enhance initial belief.
“Everyone in nets has looked really good but we know it is very different in the game, being under pressure,” he said.
“The lads have trained fantastically well, but that counts for nothing in terms of how we are going to go tomorrow.
“It’s a really exciting place to be as a side because I think we’ve made some really good progress in this week-and-a-half.
“The guys look fresh but the crux of the matter is how we pull up tomorrow and how we play.
“We’ve talked a good game so far in meetings and nets and I could not ask the lads for any more effort.”
Steven Finn is a fitness doubt though after he suffered a groin injury during the centre-wicket practice session England conducted after Sunday’s wash-out.
“Finny has pulled up with a little bit of a niggle from that training session,” Cook said.
“He’ll go through the usual assessment today, he didn’t bowl yesterday and we’ll see tomorrow morning.
“We haven’t settled on the team as yet – Moeen is going to open the batting and then we’ll try and get the balance right.”
Cook wished Australia batsman Phillip Hughes well following the head injury the left-hander suffered during a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG on Tuesday.
Hughes was critically ill and in an induced coma at the St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney after he was rushed from the ground in an ambulance to undergo emergency surgery.
The 25-year-old was struck in the back of his head, just under the helmet he was wearing, when he missed an attempted hook shot off his former New South Wales team-mate Sean Abbott.
“Since we woke up this morning, the whole team have been in a bit of shock all day,” Cook said.
“All our thoughts and prayers are with Phillip. It’s a really saddening incident.
“Fingers crossed, he can show the same fight he’s shown throughout his whole career and he can pull through.”
— England Cricket (@ECB_cricket) November 25, 2014
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